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Chapter 23: Bowling Green.

General Johnston's command in Kentucky consisted of three armies: Polk's on the left, at Columbus; Buckner's in the centre, about Bowling Green; and Zollicoffer's, on the right, at Cumberland Ford. Early in October, Polk had some 10,000 men to protect Columbus from Grant's 20,000 or 25,000 troops at and near Cairo. Buckner's force had increased to 6,000, against double that number of adversaries under Sherman; and Zollicoffer's 4,000 men had 8,000 or 10,000 men opposed to them in Eastern Kentucky, under General Thomas. Polk had small permanent camps at Feliciana and Mayfield, to guard his flank. Similar posts were established at Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, near the State line. General J. T. Alcorn had two or three regiments, principally Mississippians, at Hopkinsville. These commands reported to Buckner. Colonel Stanton's regiment, and some companies, watched the roads to Jamestown and Jacksboro, in Central Tennessee, and reported to Zollicoffer. In Eastern Kentucky a small force was recruiting.

The transfer of Hardee's army from Arkansas to Kentucky has already been mentioned. This was not done without exciting local jealousy, and drawing forth from Arkansas politicians a vigorous remonstrance. General Johnston was not indifferent to the military situation west of the Mississippi. He was alive to its importance in a general plan of operations, as was evinced in his requisition on Arkansas for 10,000 men for McCulloch. Indeed, could he have secured the Tennessee line, it was his wish to exchange the seat of war thence for an offensive campaign in Missouri. But Fortune denied him this advantage.

Although his military necessities compelled him to withdraw Hardee from Arkansas, General Johnston refused other applications for transfer thence to Kentucky. He was, at this time, encouraged to hope something from Jeff Thompson's activity, which promised fair, but was soon after extinguished by defeat. He ordered Thompson, September 29th, to “remove his forces to the vicinity of Farmington, on the route to St. Louis, in order to relieve the pressure on Price; and to keep the field as long as he was able to do so with safety to his command.”

General Johnston remained at Columbus superintending its fortifications, and directing the movement and organization of troops, until October 12th. Early in October Buckner advised him that the enemy was about to advance against Bowling Green. He replied: “Hold on [350]

Bowling Green and its surroundings-general Johnston's map.

to Bowling Green. Make your stand there. All the troops I can raise will be with you.”

To the adjutant-general he made the following report by telegraph:

Columbus, October 12, 1861.
The troops here are still actively engaged in preparation for the defense of this point, and I hope to have the work complete soon. I anticipate no immediate advance of the enemy on this line, but, learning they are advancing in considerable force on Bowling Green, I have ordered thither the available force without weakening this point materially, and will to-night repair there and take command in person.

General Hardee has already arrived there, and by to-night three-fifths of his command will have arrived, and the whole of the remainder will be en route tomorrow. Deficiency of rolling-stock did not permit me to make his movement more compact. Respectfully,

A. S. Johnston, General C. S. A. General Cooper, Adjutant-General, Richmond.

The following letter to the adjutant-general discloses more fully General Johnston's situation at this date:

headquarters, Western division, Bowling Green, Kentucky, October 17, 1861.
General: I informed you by telegraph, on the 12th, that, in consequence of information received from General Buckner of the advance of the enemy in considerable force, I had ordered forward all my available force to his support. Hardee's division and Terry's regiment have arrived. Here, and in advance, our force may be estimated at 12,000 men. Correct returns cannot be obtained until after a little organization. Two Tennessee regiments (Stanton's from [351] Overton County, and one from Union City) are yet to arrive, and may reach this in two or three days, and give an increase of about 2,000 men.

I cannot expect immediately any additional force under the call of last month on the Governors of Tennessee and Mississippi. The men will doubtless present themselves promptly at the rendezvous, but I cannot suppose any considerable portion will be armed. When I made the call, I hoped that some might come armed; I cannot now conjecture how many will do so.

The call was made to save time, and in the hope that, by the time they were organized and somewhat instructed, the Confederate Government would be able to arm them. As at present informed, the best effort of the enemy will be made on this line, threatening at the same time the communications between Tennessee and Virginia covered by Zollicoffer, and Columbus from Cairo by river, and Paducah by land, and maybe a serious attack on one or the other; and for this their command of the Ohio and all the navigable waters of Kentucky, and better means of transportation, give them great facilities of concentration. As my forces at neither this nor any of the other points threatened are more than sufficient to meet the force in front, I cannot weaken either until the object of the enemy is fully pronounced.

You now know the efforts I anticipate from the enemy, and the line on which the first blow is expected to fall, and the means adopted by me with the forces at my disposal to meet him.

I will use all means to increase my force, and spare no exertions to render it effective at every point; but I cannot assure you that this will be sufficient; and, if reinforcements from less endangered or less important points can be spared, I would be glad to receive them.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. S. Johnston, General 0. S. A. General S. Cooper., Adjutant and Inspector-General, Richmond.

The Confederate army assembled near Bowling Green numbered, as stated, 12,000 men. This included about 6,000 under Buckner; 4,000 under Hardee, who had left 1,600 behind him, half of them sick; and some other reinforcements. The strength of the Kentucky contingent had now begun to define itself. General Johnston thus expresses his disappointment at the apathy of Kentucky, in a letter to the Secretary of War, October 22d:

We have received but little accession to our ranks since the Confederate forces crossed the line; in fact, no such demonstrations of enthusiasm as to justify any movements not warranted by our ability to maintain our own communications. It is true that I am writing from a Union county, and it is said to be different in other counties. They appear to me passive, if not apathetic. There are thousands of ardent friends of the South in the State, but there is apparently among them no concert of action.. I shall, however, still hope that the love and spirit of liberty are not yet extinct in Kentucky.

General Johnston now addressed himself to the reorganization of his army, which is given in Special Order No. 51, issued at Bowling Green, October 28, 1861. It is given in full, as it not only exhibits something of [352] the personnel of its officers, but assists in a verification of the strength of the army, and will elucidate its movements:

“first division.
Major-General Hardee, commanding.
Adams's regiment and Phifer's battalion.
Swett's, Twigg's Hubbard's, and Byrne's batteries.
First Brigade.-Brigadier-General Hindman, commanding.
Second Arkansas Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Bocage.
Second Arkansas Regiment, Colonel A. T. Hawthorne.
Arkansas Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Marmaduke.
Second Brigade.-Colonel P. R. Cleburne, commanding.
First Arkansas Regiment, Colonel Cleburne.
Fifth Arkansas Regiment, Colonel D. C. Cross.
Seventh Mississippi Regiment, Colonel J. J. Tornton.
Third Brigade.-Colonel R. G. Shaver, commanding.
Seventh Arkansas Regiment, Colonel Shaver.
Eighth Arkansas Regiment, Colonel W. R. Patterson.
Twenty-fourth Tennessee Regiment, Colonel R. D. Allison.
Ninth Arkansas Regiment, Colonel J. J. Mason.
Second division.
Brigadier-General Buckner, commanding.
Kentucky Regiment, Colonel B. H. Helm.
Tennessee Regiment, Major Cox.
Lyon's and Porters batteries.
First Brigade.-Colonel
Hanson, commanding.
Hanson's, Thompson's, Trabue's, Hunt's, and Lewis's Kentucky
Second Brigade.-Colonel Baldwin, commanding.
Fourteenth Mississippi Regiment, Colonel Baldwin.
Twenty-sixth Tennessee Regiment, Colonel Lillard.
Third Brigade.-Colonel J. C. Brown, commanding.
Third Tennessee Regiment, Colonel Brown.
Twenty-third Tennessee Regiment, Colonel Martin.
Eighteenth Tennessee Regiment, Colonel Palmer. [353]
Texas Regiment of Cavalry, Colonel B. F. Terry.
Artillery-Harper's and Spencer's batteries.
Infantry-Tennessee Regiment, Colonel Stanton. ”

By command of General Johnston:

W. W. Mackall, Assistant Adjutant-General.

General Johnston assumed the chief command at Bowling Green, devolving the active duties of the field upon his two division-commanders. Buckner has already been spoken of. But, though Hardee has been mentioned more than once, his relations to General Johnston entitle him — to fuller notice. William Joseph Hardee was of a good Georgia family, and was born in 1815. He was graduated at West Point in 1838, when he was commissioned second-lieutenant in the Second Dragoons. He also attended the cavalry-school of Saumur, in France. He served in Florida and on the Plains; he was with Taylor at Monterey, and with Scott from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico, and was twice brevetted for “gallant and meritorious service,” coming out of the Mexican War captain and brevet lieutenant-colonel. In 1855 he was made major of the Second Cavalry, and in 1856 commandant of the Corps of Cadets at West Point, where he remained until 1860. He was best known as the author of the standard book on military tactics. On the secession of Georgia, he promptly followed the fortunes of his State.

Hardee was first sent to command in Mobile Bay, but, in June, 1861, was promoted to brigadier-general, to take command in Eastern Arkansas. Here the diseases of camp and want of cooperation among the commanders prevented any valuable achievement. Under General Johnston, however, Hardee was with a superior officer, whom he knew, under whom he had served before, and who esteemed him highly. His subsequent career is that of the Army of the West, and deserves a biography from some faithful and judicious hand. The more exact, the more balanced, the more temperate in plan and tone, the better would such a work portray the man.

The writer's estimate of General Hardee, based upon both social and official intercourse, is very high. His personal appearance was striking. In form he was tall and sinewy, and his bearing was eminently military. His features were somewhat harsh in repose, but his frank and genial smile lit them with a most winning expression. He was good-tempered, friendly, and intelligent in conversation with men, and very charming with women. His deference and gallantry were of the old school. His social success belonged to his perfect poise, in which were mingled frankness, amiability, and tact-qualities which, a classmate says, already characterized him while a cadet at West Point. [354]

Hardee was an accomplished soldier. His qualities were such as command respect. He was an excellent horseman, an impressive figure on the field. Though somewhat stern and exacting as a disciplinarian, expecting full performance of duty, he was reasonable, and his judgment was sound. He thoroughly knew the business of war in the camp and on the battle-field. He was a real teacher, disciplinarian, and organizer, with the troops of the West. While fond of recreation and social enjoyment, no delight could tempt him from the work of war.

He was a perfectly courageous man, cool and calculating in victory or defeat. His idea was to hurt the enemy and save his own men. Not anxious to push doubtful points, he was shrewd to see his own advantage, and hammered heavily on a discomfited foe. Some in the old army thought Hardee ambitious. If so, his ambition was well regulated. He doubted his own fertility of original suggestion, and certainly did not value himself more highly than he was valued by others. He did not wish independent command, and, when appointed as General Bragg's successor at Dalton, refused the honor. There was no better lieutenant-general in the Confederate army, Stonewall Jackson excepted.

Among the subordinates were many meritorious officers, and some who afterward rose to deserved distinction. Hindman, who commanded the advance, was a man of energy, audacity, and restless ambition. He had been a lawyer at Helena, Arkansas, and a member of Congress. Cleburne, who likewise practised law at Helena, was an Irishman by birth, had served in the British army, and was a man of broad, sober, noble nature. He died sword in hand at the head of his division in the assault on the Federal intrenchments at Franklin, Tennessee. Marmaduke was here as a lieutenant-colonel; and John C. Brown was a colonel, who since the war has been twice elected Governor of Tennessee in successive terms, and President of the Constitutional Convention which relieved the people from reconstruction disabilities to vote and hold office. All of these were subsequently major-generals.1 [355]

General Zollicoffer entered Kentucky with orders to fortify Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Ford, and the intervening passes, so as to render them tenable by the smallest practicable force. It was General Johnston's intention that he should then be moved to where he could act in cooperation with Buckner. Zollicoffer was deficient in facilities for effective fortification, and was prompted by an ardent and enterprising temper to more active operations. In the centre of a hostile population, and of a poor, mountainous country, he was urged both by the want of supplies and the necessity for vigilance to send out frequent expeditions. One of these brought on the first hostile collision in Kentucky.

General Zollicoffer sent out Colonel J. A. Battle, who, with about 800 men, on the 17th of September, attacked and dispersed a camp of 300 Home Guards at Barboursville, eighteen miles distant from the position of the main body of the Confederates. The Confederates lost two killed and three wounded, and reported the known loss of the enemy as twelve killed and two prisoners. Having captured twenty fire-arms, and destroyed “Camp Andrew Johnson,” they returned to Cumberland Ford.

On September 26th an expedition, sent by Zollicoffer to get salt, broke up a large encampment at Laurel Bridge, capturing its baggage, a few prisoners, 8,000 rounds of ammunition, and 200 barrels of salt. Zollicoffer reported that some plundering` occurred on this expedition, which he regretted, and would punish. It was alike his interest and his desire to conciliate the population. Captain Bledsoe, with a company of Tennessee cavalry stationed near Jamestown, Tennessee, on September 30th, attacked and routed a camp of Federals near Albany, Kentucky, capturing some sixty muskets. Zollicoffer was active in these minor operations, breaking up and capturing small bodies of Union recruits.

General Johnston was anxious to fortify rapidly and formidably the strategic points in his line, so as to mobilize his troops. The strong points about Cumberland Gap, thus secured, would dominate a disloyal region, arrest an invader, and release an army for service elsewhere. But Zollicoffer's enthusiastic temperament impelled him to follow up the small advantages he had gained in the field, and he obtained General Johnston's permission to fight when it seemed right to him, a discretion not to be withheld from the general of a detached army of observation.

As soon as Zollicoffer received this authority, he sought the enemy. Deficient in staff, in organization, in transportation, and in subsistence, And the boys kept crying for the word, and they wondered why it didn't come. But, when it didn't come, I knew Pat Cleburne was dead; for, if he had been living, he would have given that order. And, sure enough, he was dead, and all his staff with him. [356] he moved slowly over the mountain-paths of the rugged and barren “Wilderness” of Kentucky. Bad roads, broken wagons, and short rations, impeded his march; but, on the 20th of October, he found himself at Rockcastle River, eight miles from the enemy. On that same day, General Johnston wrote him that there were probably 4,000 Federals at Rockcastle Hills, 6,000 at Dick Robinson, and a formidable reserve in Northern Kentucky. But this was too late, of course, to reach him.

General Thomas, who had his headquarters at Dick Robinson, had been anxious to assume the offensive. His plan was to penetrate East Tennessee, cut the railroad communications east and west, and raise the Unionists there in revolt.2 It is hardly doubtful that all the arrangements for this scheme had been made. Thomas had pushed forward his advance to Rockcastle Hills, where, on notice of Zollicoffer's approach, the commander, General Albin Schoepf, took a strong, intrenched position, known as “Wild Cat,” with six regiments, numbering from 3,500 to 4,000 men. Zollicoffer had 5,500 men, but believed that only two Federal regiments were at “Wild Cat,” not knowing that the rest of the vanguard had been concentrated there, the whole strength of which he estimated at 3,300 men. He reported to General Johnston that he “threw forward two regiments and a battalion to feel the enemy.” This force assaulted the Federal position on the 21st of October, but, finding it too strong to be taken, withdrew with the loss of eleven killed and forty-two wounded.3 He took forty prisoners and some arms. General Schoepf reported his loss as five killed and eleven wounded.

As this affair has been much exaggerated, the following brief sketch from the pen of Colonel Albert S. Marks is here given. Colonel Marks was a thoughtful and gallant officer, and has since the war attained distinction on the bench of Tennessee. He says:

The hill which the enemy had fortified was at the head of a gorge about one-fourth of a mile wide. This fortified hill commanded the road over Rockcastle Hills. The day before the enemy was reached we found the road approaching the Hills, miles away from it, obstructed by fallen trees. A pioneer corps was put to work to clear them away. The men were not allowed to eat or sleep until the enemy was reached next morning. When as much as a hundred yards was cleared away, the brigade would be moved up, and this process went on the whole night. When the hill was reached, the road was found utterly impassable with fallen timber.

The regiment to which I belonged, the Seventeenth Tennessee Infantry, was put in line of battle to the right of the road. The advance was through the woods. When the hill was reached, it was found that the face of it was a precipitous bluff. At the centre of the regiment where my company was, the hill [357] was accessible. My company, with a part of the companies on the right and left of it, could ascend the hill. We did so. As soon as the crest of the hill was reached we found the intrenchments of the enemy about sixty yards from the crest with a solid abattis in front. I pressed my company into the abattis. The firing went on for half an hour. I had six men killed, and over twenty wounded.4 The balance of the killed were out of the fragments of the companies with me. Their officers were with me, and the men would have been there, but our line covered the whole assailable ground. There was no attempt to support us. There was no assault or attempt at assault elsewhere. Indeed, it was impossible. I was ordered to withdraw my company, and did so, and thus ended the affair. We did not have out a skirmisher. The hill could have been turned either way without trouble, and if it had been attempted the enemy would have abandoned the place.

The skirmish at “Wild Cat” was a misadventure, the ill effects of which were not measured by its magnitude. The Confederates retreated to Cumberland Ford depressed, and with loss of reputation in a region where prestige was everything. The Federals, believing, or pretending to believe, that they had repulsed Zollicoffer's whole army, took heart and exulted in their prowess. Their projects of invasion were resumed, and the angry and elated Unionism of East Tennessee broke into open revolt.

Zollicoffer, in accordance with orders from General Johnston, October 28th and November 7th, having left about 2,000 men at Cumberland Gap, moved eastward, and finally took position guarding the Jamestown and Jacksboro roads, in defense of which line he carried on his subsequent operations. From this point he advanced, slowly feeling his way, until he established himself at Mill Spring on the Cumberland. On November 24th Major-General George B. Crittenden assumed command of this military district, having been assigned thereto by the War Department.

A general attack along the whole Federal line was attempted early in November, in concert with an insurrection in East Tennessee. Although the various combats and enterprises of this movement are recorded by the Federal annalists, their simultaneous and concerted character is not alluded to, if it was observed, by any of them. When the movement proved abortive, neither General Grant nor General Sherman felt it necessary to call attention to that fact, nor to disclose their purpose in it. Yet a simple narrative of the events of the different expeditions made under these commanders will, in time, character, and relation, evince concert, as parts of a general plan.

Grant's movement, beginning on November 3d, by an expedition from Cape Girardeau into Missouri, under Oglesby, and closing with the battle of Belmont, November 7th, will be related in the next chapter. Sherman's central army gave every evidence of preparation for an [358] advance. On the Cumberland and Lower Green River the gunboats and cavalry showed unusual activity. On the 26th of October a gunboat expedition, under Major Phillips, was made against a Confederate recruiting-station, near Eddyville, Kentucky. Phillips, with three companies of the Ninth Illinois Regiment, surprised and broke up the station, where Captain Wilcox had assembled about seventy-five men, capturing, killing, or wounding, a third of their number, with slight loss to his own command. On October 28th Colonel Burbridge, with 300 men, crossed Green River at Woodbury, and Colonel McHenry, with 200, at Morgantown, and engaged some small scouting-parties in that quarter. These were inconsiderable skirmishes. On Sherman's right flank, Schoepf was pushed forward, by Thomas, to London. At the same time the Unionists of East Tennessee burned the railroad-bridges and took up arms. But this episode will be given hereafter.

While Grant was counting his losses on the day after Belmont, another contest was occurring at the other extremity of the hostile lines in Kentucky. Although the eastern part of the State had adhered with great unanimity to the Federal cause, many localities and families were favorable to the South. About 1,000 men, poorly armed and equipped, had enrolled themselves as Confederate soldiers at Piketon, near the head of the Big Sandy River. Their commander, Colonel John S. Williams, was endeavoring to supply and equip them. from the resources of the neighborhood. But lie was not to be left unmolested. Brigadier-General Nelson, who had advanced to Prestonburg with a Federal force, now pushed forward, and attacked Williams on the 8th of November. Nelson had four large regiments, a battalion, and two sections of artillery — nearly 4,000 men. Williams made a stand for time to get off his stores, which he did with little loss. A sharp fight ensued; and Williams finally fell back, having suffered little. He admitted a loss of eleven killed, eighteen wounded, and some forty missing. The Federal accounts are inconsistent. One of them acknowledged a loss of thirteen killed and thirty-five wounded. Williams conducted his retreat with success; and reached Pound Gap on the 13th of November with 835 men, the rest having scattered. Here he was met by Brigadier-General Humphrey Marshall, who had lately been assigned to the command of that district. Marshall had 1,600 men, 500 of them unarmed. With these troops he took position in observation, secure in these mountain fastnesses, but without power for an advance.

It will be observed that all these events took place in the last days of October or early in November. General (then Colonel) John C. Brown informs the writer that, at this juncture, he was accompanying General Johnston on a reconnaissance, from Bowling Green, up the Big Barren River, and through the country toward Glasgow. The [359] general was enjoying the recreation of the march, and the pleasures of the bivouac, when, late one night, while they were sitting around the camp-fire, a telegram was handed him, advising him of Grant's movement upon Belmont. After reading it carefully, he passed it round to the other officers, and remarked, “This indicates a simultaneous movement along the whole line.” He at once ordered Colonel Brown to take 100 mounted men, before daylight the next morning, and proceed down the Big Barren River to Bowling Green--about fifty miles by the meanders of the river — examine every ford upon the river, and report to him that night at Bowling Green. Colonel Brown said that he would prefer not to have more than half a dozen men; to which General Johnston replied, “Well, as my friend Captain Jack--Hays used to say, on the plains of Texas, when about leaving camp of a morning, looking at his revolvers-‘ Perhaps I will not need you to-day; but, if I do, I will need you damned badly’ --so with you and the cavalry, Colonel Brown; you may not need them at all; but, if you do, you will need them quick and very badly ; so you had better take them along with you.” Colonel Brown accepted the escort, examined the fords, and reported promptly at Bowling Green that night, whither General Johnston had preceded him with all speed.

Discerning the signs of a general movement against his lines before it began, General Johnston took such steps as were in his power to frustrate it. He knew that he had a force of 20,000 men opposed to him on his front,5 and that he was threatened on both flanks; but he felt able to repel a direct attack on Bowling Green, and considered Columbus secure. At Columbus there were some 12,000 effectives, in a commanding position, behind strong fortifications, and with sufficient heavy artillery. Indeed, not having been properly informed of the reductions in the garrison from sickness and other causes, he estimated the force there at 16,000 men, and sought to strengthen his line where most vulnerable by a detachment from it. For this purpose, he ordered Polk to send Pillow, with 5,000 men, to Clarksville, where, with the troops at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, he could defend that section from sudden irruption. The battle of Belmont, however, intervened, delaying Pillow's removal; after which, on the ground of an imperious necessity, all his generals concurring, Polk suspended the order. It was represented to General Johnston that but 6,000 effectives would be left at Columbus, confronted by 25,000 men, who were being largely reinforced from Missouri. In a letter to the Secretary of War, November 15th, General Johnston thus explains his situation:

I therefore revoked my order. General Polk's force is stated far below what I have estimated it; and, with a knowledge of the case as he presents it, [360] I had left but the choice of difficulties — the great probability of defeat at Columbus or a successful advance of the enemy on my left.6 I have risked the latter. The first would be a great misfortune, scarcely reparable for a long time; the latter may be prevented. I have, however, at Nolin, on my front, about twenty-seven regiments, and a large auxiliary force at Columbia, on my right.

The force on my front will await the success of movements on my left. My force must soon be put in motion. I am making every preparation with that object. It has taken much time to provide transportation (which is nearly accomplished), and all else, for a force suddenly raised. A portion of my force is well armed and instructed; the remainder badly armed, but improving in all other respects. A good spirit prevails throughout.

General Zollicoffer is taking measures to suppress the uprising of the disaffected in Rhea and Hamilton Counties, Tennessee; and, if it is true that Williams has retreated through Pound Gap, Marshall could easily suppress the insurrection in Carter, Johnson, and other counties, and then unite his force with Zollicoffer. The force under Zollicoffer, as everywhere else on this line, should be reinforced; but this you know without my suggestion. The effective force here is 12,500.

It was not without cause that General Johnston regarded the left centre of his line with apprehension. A full narrative of the defenses of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers will be given in another chapter. Here, it is only necessary to state that there were garrisons at the forts and obstructions in the rivers, thought to be sufficient to prevent the passage of gunboats. But the country in front, between the Cumberland and Green Rivers, was a debatable ground, in which the Federals had recruited more soldiers than the Southern army. It was continually menaced by these native corps, and also by gunboat expeditions up these rivers from the Ohio. Small commands were kept at Russellville and Hopkinsville ; but these, as well as the garrisons at the forts, suffered extremely from disease.

Brigadier-General J. T. Alcorn, who was stationed at Hopkinsville with two or three regiments, to protect that region from the approach and depredations of the enemy, thus describes his ill success, and the causes for it, in one of his reports My command, after furnishing nurses for the sick, is reduced to a battalion. It appears that every man in my camp will directly be down with the measles. The thought of a movement in my present condition is idle. I am not more than able to patrol the town. In relation to the movements of the enemy at Eddyville, I have reliable information. The gunboat steamed up to the town, and steamed back again. A company or squad of twenty-five cavalry, from Smithland, marched within four miles of Eddyville, took all the double-barreled guns they could find, robbed some women of their jewelry, seized several horses and mules, destroyed some property, insulted some women, captured one citizen as prisoner, and returned to Smithland.

He reports at Calhoun, Owensboro, and Henderson, about 3,000 Federal troops, “who shift from one post to another, and when [361] moving steal everything that they meet, and take everything valuable that they can carry.” This is not an unfair sample of the reported conduct of the Federal troops on this line. Brigadier-General Tilghman, who succeeded Alcorn in command at Hopkinsville, reported, November 2d, that he was threatened by a heavy body of the enemy. He adds that he had 750 sick, and only 285 for duty. To meet a scouting-party of the enemy he raked up a battalion of 400 men, but the surgeon declared that only one-half of them were fit for duty. Tilghman described them as “the poorest clad, shod, and armed body of men I ever saw, but full of enthusiasm.” Four days later, Gregg reached him, under orders from General Johnston, with 749 Texans, after marches of almost unexampled speed from their homes. Forrest, too, passed to the front on a scout.

Such was the condition of affairs in the western district of his department when General Johnston wrote, as above, November 15th. He could trust for protection against marauders to this force and the troops at the forts. They would of course be inadequate to meet a column, but that risk he had to take. He depended a good deal on the character of the country between Columbus and the Cumberland River for its defense. It was generally covered by heavy forest and undergrowth, and intersected by numerous roads, and thus capable of defense by a force inferior to the invader.

General Johnston, desiring to improve the organization of the army, had directed its withdrawal from its advanced positions near Green River; but, upon consideration, he countermanded this order, for the reasons given in the following letter, which also indicates his policy at the time:

headquarters, Western Department, Bowling Green, Kentucky, October 21, 1861.
sir: I am instructed by General Johnston to say that his order to you was based on the great deficiency in, and the great necessity for, organization of this army corps, But, on further reflection, this must yield to other considerations, and be effected by other means.

The backward movement from Green River might, and probably would, be interpreted by the enemy into a retreat, and, if it did not encourage them to a move in rapid advance, would discourage our friends and elate our enemies in Kentucky. He therefore arrests it. He desires you to maintain yourself in observation of Green River, disposing of the forces now with you so as, in your judgment, will best accomplish this, and impress the enemy with an expectation of an advance by us. Secure yourself at the same time from his enterprise on your rear from the right and left.

Let that portion of your command which, for want of teams, depends for transportation on the railroad be posted at Dripping Springs.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. W. Makall, A. A. General. Brigadier-General W. J. Hardee, commanding, etc.


It will be seen that the execution of these orders was effective in arresting the combined movement projected against him at this time.

General Johnston's policy from the beginning had been to keep up such an aspect of menace as would deter the enemy from an advance. A crushing blow delivered by Sherman, on any part of his line, would discover his weakness ; and his wish was to parry, rather than to meet, such a blow. It could only be averted by inspiring the enemy with an exaggerated notion of the Confederate strength, and with such expectation of immediate attack as would put him on the defensive. Having no sufficient force to make formidable demonstrations, the same result was attained by frequent rapid expeditions through a wooded and sparsely-settled country, spreading rumors that had their effect at the Federal headquarters.

These enterprises were too numerous and uneventful to enter into this narrative. Among others, may be mentioned that of Colonel Allison who, with 250 men of the Twenty-fourth Tennessee Regiment, and 120 cavalry, routed a large camp, known as Jo Underwood's, on October 24th. Besides killing and wounding some Federals, lie captured fourteen prisoners and some arms.

In pursuance of this policy, on the 9th of November General Johnston sent Colonel Cleburne, with 1,200 infantry, half a section of artillery, and a squadron of Terry's Rangers, on a reconnaissance. He was to go to Jamestown, Kentucky, and Tompkinsville, while Zollicoffer was coming westward by Jacksboro and Jamestown, Tennessee. Five hundred of the enemy were reported at Jamestown, and 500 at Tompkinsville. His orders ran:

If the enemy are there, attack and destroy them. . . . Create the impression in the country that this force is only an advanced guard.

Cleburne marched as directed, but the Federals did not wait for him. They moved off at his approach, carrying reports of an advancing host. He found the people bitterly hostile. The able-bodied men had run away or joined the enemy. The women and children, terrified by calumnies that recited the atrocities of the Southern troops, hid in the woods or collected in crowds, imploring mercy. Cleburne says:

Everybody fled at our approach; but two people were left in Tompkinsvillenot a friend from there to Jamestown. One old woman met us with an open Bible, saying she was ready to die.

Of course, he treated every one kindly. Trunks found in the woods by the flankers were restored to the houses with labels stating the fact. A few articles were stolen by teamsters or camp-followers; but Cleburne at once paid for them out of his own pocket. This conduct reassured the people, and he found a very good feeling on his return. [363]

This reconnaissance of Cleburne, and other movements of troops, produced the effect intended. Sherman was greatly troubled with the apprehension of an attack upon him by overwhelming numbers. The following extracts from his “Memoirs” prove conclusively that he thought exactly what General Johnston wished him to think in regard to the Confederate army. His statement, probably unintentional, is liable to convey an erroneous impression, where he says only about 18,000 men were allotted to him, if his remarks apply to this period. The Secretary of War reports that his force, November 10th, was 49,617 men,7 and his own statements show that his force was not less.8

General Sherman says in his “Memoirs” (vol. i., page 199):

As to a forward movement that fall, it was simply impracticable; for we were forced to use divergent lines, leading our columns farther and farther apart; and all I could attempt was to go on and collect force and material at the two points already chosen, viz., Dick Robinson and Elizabethtown. General George H. Thomas still continued to command the former, and on the 12th of October I dispatched Brigadier-General A. McD. McCook to command the latter, which had been moved forward to Nolin Creek, fifty-two miles out of Louisville, toward Bowling Green ....

I continued to strengthen the two corps forward and their routes of supply; all the time expecting that Sidney Johnston, who was a real general, and who had as correct information of our situation as I had, would unite his force with Zollicoffer, and fall on Thomas at Dick Robinson, or McCook at Nolin. Had he done so in October, 1861, he could have walked into Louisville, and the vital part of the population would have hailed him as a deliverer. Why he did not, was to me a mystery then and is now; for I know that he saw the move, and that his wagons loaded up at one time for a start toward Frankfort, passing between our two camps. Conscious of our weakness, I was unnecessarily unhappy, and doubtless exhibited it too much to those near me. (Page 200.)

McClellan had 100,000 men, Fremont 60,000, whereas to me had only been allotted about 18,000. I argued that, for the purpose of defense, we should have 60,000 men at once, and, for offense, would need 200,000 before we were done. . . . (Page 203.)

I complained that the new levies of Ohio and Indiana were diverted East and West, and we got scarcely anything; that our forces at Nolin and Dick Robinson were powerless for invasion, and only tempting to a general, such as we believed Sidney Johnston to be; that, if Johnston chose, he could march to Louisville any day. (Page 202.)

General Sherman, under the conviction that General Johnston was about to move on him in force, on the 11th of November ordered Thomas to withdraw behind the Kentucky River; and Thomas ordered Schoepf, who was at London, to retire to Crab Orchard. Schoepf fell back, but with such precipitation as to produce all the features and consequences of a rout. The weather was inclement; the roads very bad; and the order of march ill preserved. Tons of ammunition and [364] vast quantities of stores were thrown away. Broken teams and other abandoned property marked the line of retreat. A Federal reporter says:

Our march has temporarily disabled the entire brigade, and large numbers will be in hospital in a day or two. So ends the great Cumberland Gap expedition.

The men became demoralized; and the retreat degenerated into a flight. Some soldiers died of exhaustion, and many were disabled.9 Zollicoffer's repulse at Wild Cat and this “Wild-cat stampede,” as it was called, were offsets to each other in moral effect.

The conspiracy for a general insurrection in East Tennessee was rendered abortive by Schoepf's sudden retreat and Zollicoffer's possession of the Gaps. With Schoepf's column were Andrew Johnson and other civilian leaders, whose presence was expected to give a powerful impulse to a great popular uprising. As they sullenly retired, this hope faded from the minds of their followers. Nevertheless, the arrangements for revolt were too forward to be arrested without some outbreaks, as the first steps had already been taken on the day appointed. Bands and squads of the hardier and bolder spirits had assembled in arms and begun the work of bridge-burning, which was to be the first chapter in the programme of this counter-revolution.

On the night of November 8th five railroad-bridges were burned: two over Chickamauga Creek, one over Hiwassee River, on the Georgia State Railroad, one on Lick Creek, and another over Holston River, on the Virginia & East Tennessee Railroad. At Strawberry Plains a single sentinel, James Keelan, guarded the bridge. It is said that sixteen incendiaries attacked him at midnight on the platform of the trestle-work. He defended the bridge, and killed the ringleader in the act of setting fire to it. He received three bullet-wounds, and many cuts and gashes, and his hand was nearly severed from his wrist; but he fought his assailants so fiercely that at last they fled. He reached the house of the railroad agent, where, as he sank down bleeding and exhausted, he said, “They have killed me, but I have saved the bridge.” Happily, he recovered from his wounds.

General Johnston ordered General Carroll from Memphis with his brigade. After Carroll's arrival in East Tennessee, there were 6,000 Confederate soldiers there, and, a month later, 7,000; but only 1,000 of them were fully armed. Among 2,000 men at Knoxville, only 600 had any arms. The insurgents were said to consist of half a dozen bands, numbering from 500 to 2,000 men each. These numbers were, probably greatly exaggerated, the more so because they rose in scattered bands. Some slight skirmishes took place; but they made no effective stand. [365] Everywhere they dispersed on the approach of troops, and hid in their mountain retreats; or, following by-paths, escaped to the enemy in Kentucky. Some of the ringleaders were arrested, and a few men were captured in arms; but there was no disposition on the part of the authorities to treat them with severity, and, after a brief detention, most of them were released on taking the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States.

General W. H. Carroll, commanding at Knoxville, proclaimed martial law on the 14th of November; but, becoming satisfied that there was no longer a necessity for its enforcement, rescinded the order on the 24th of November. His order said:

It is not the purpose of the commanding general at this post to impose any restrictions or enforce any law not required by stern necessity. Those persons who remain at home, submitting to the established laws of the country, will not be molested, whatever their previous political opinions may have been.

Though there was considerable ferment and disloyalty in East Tennessee, requiring the presence of troops, its disloyalty demanded no further active measures of repression. The Governor of Tennessee, by his firm, judicious, and temperate conduct, aided greatly in restoring order to the disaffected region.

1 The estimation in which Cleburne was held by the soldiers is illustrated in the following anecdote, told the writer by General Randal L. Gibson: When the Federal army made a stand at Franklin, Tennessee, Cleburne's and Brown's divisions were pushed forward on the turnpike, and captured the outer works and part of the second line after a desperate conflict, in which bayonet and clubbed musket were freely used. The carnage was terrible. Twelve Confederate general officers were disabled. General Gibson, in leading forward the advance next morning, stopped at early dawn where the Confederate line occupied the works. The ditch was full of the Confederate dead. Here he heard an Arkansas veteran relating to his comrades, in the cold gray of the morning, the story of yesterday's fight. The soldier ended it thus: “You see we were on this side of the works, and the enemy was on the other side of the works; and we kept getting over, but they would reinforce and drive us out.” And finally we said, “Let's pass the word along the line to keep quiet till General Cleburne gives the word to charge, so we'll all get over together; then we know we'll drive them. And we waited, and we waited, and we waited.”

2 Van Horne's “Army of the Cumberland,” vol. i., p. 37.

3 Howison's “History of the War.” --Southern Literary messenger, 1862, p. 203.

4 About one-half the entire loss.

5 Sherman had in all, including Thomas, 40,000 men, fully organized. (See Appendix A, p. 364.)

6 At Donelson or Henry.

7 See Appendix A.

8 See Appendix B.

9 “ Rebellion Record,” vol. III., p. 894.

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